CARBONDALE — Tuition at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville will go up 5 percent, with a 3 percent increase at the Carbondale campus.
The SIU board of trustees voted a tuition increase smaller than was proposed by the administrators of the schools at its regular meeting Thursday. The 5 percent increase will set tuition at $7,295.40, a $347.40 increase from the current tuition of $6,948 per year.
The SIUE administration had requested an increase of 7 percent, which would have increased tuition $486 to $7,434 per year for this fall's incoming freshmen.
Carbondale administrators had requested 5 percent and received 3 percent.
SIU President Glenn Poshard, however, had recommended 5 percent for both campuses, as did graduating student trustee David Hamilton. Hamilton pointed out that most students have already made their decisions for fall, and the tuition increase is unlikely to change their minds.
Hamilton said with only a 3 percent increase the SIUE College of Arts and Sciences would have had to cut 115 class sections, which would make students end up paying more in the long run: they end up extending a semester or two to finish classes they were unable to take earlier in their careers, he said.
SIUE Chancellor Julie Furst-Bowe said the 7 percent increase had been endorsed by both the undergraduate and graduate student government associations at SIUE.
Poshard reminded the board that state appropriations have cut more than $45 million from the SIU system's budget over the past several years, and next year's budget as proposed by Gov. Pat Quinn is likely to cut another 5 percent.
SIU is also about to face a pension system reform that may begin to shift some or all of the state's share of pension costs onto the university, which could be $7 million to 9 million per year once it is fully phased in, he said. "We will have to provide for those costs for which the state is now abdicating its responsibility," Poshard said.
Other financial aspects facing the university include $4.2 million in pending salary increases through collective bargaining agreements, Poshard said, as well as $9 million lost to the costs of federal sequestration.
Poshard said the "drastic" funding cuts place the university "in a vise" to balance costs and obligations.
"Without these tuition and fee increases, it will be difficult for us to maintain the kind of quality that we're used to, to fulfill our obligations to our faculty and staff and still stay in the running for good faculty and staff to come to our campuses," Poshard said.
But Trustee Roger Herrin said he believes the university can make up the loss of funding through increased enrollment rather than "putting the burden on the backs of the students." He said that an increase of 100 students would put $1 million into the university's coffers, and he did not believe the university had done all it could to cut costs.
"I do not believe that a tuition increase is the only solution to our problems," he said.
However, Poshard pointed out that even with the original 7 percent increase in tuition, SIUE would continue to have the lowest tuition among all higher education universities in the state and SIUC would have the lowest tuition rate among research universities.
"I understand the concerns the board has with respect to tuition and fees increases," Poshard said. "On the other hand, without funds, we can't have quality programs to attract students either."
Finance Committee Chairman Marquita Wiley said that she believes families consider more than costs when choosing a university. "These rates are bargain tuition rates relative to other universities," she said. "The cost is still going to be an easier decision to make, even with the increase."
The average fee increase at the Edwardsville campus was 2.9 percent for a total of $67.50 per year in additional fees, increasing from $2,302.90 to $2,370.40 per year. Of the fees, only one increased more than 3 percent: the textbook rental fee, which increased 5.1 percent.
Furst-Bowe said the increase was necessary to offset the rising costs of textbooks despite the growing popularity of e-textbooks, which cost almost as much as traditional paper books, she said.
However, Furst-Bowe said the university's textbook rental program is estimated to save students more than $800 a year over the traditional system of buying textbooks.
On-campus housing increased 3 percent, and graduate students' tuition and fees increased 2.9 percent. Dental students will pay 2.7 percent more, and pharmacy students 2.6 percent.
In other news, the long-running battle over leadership of the Southern Illinois University board ended with one of the new trustees elected as chairman. At the opening of its Thursday meeting, the SIU board elected retired Maj. Gen. Randal Thomas as chairman of the board.
Thomas, an alumnus of SIUE, was appointed last week by Quinn, along with retired SIUE professor Shirley Portwood.
Thomas' election proceeded without argument, in contrast to months of contention over leadership of the board. Quinn had removed three metro-east board members who had opposed Herrin, the former board chairman, and replaced them with three nominees with no ties to the Edwardsville campus.
Those nominees were rejected by the Illinois Senate, and metro-east legislators introduced bills to require Edwardsville representation on the board or separate the colleges entirely. The infighting led to a canceled trustee meeting in February, when the board had too few members present to vote.
Contact reporter Elizabeth Donald at email@example.com or 618-239-2507.